Tuesday, March 11, 2008
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
I haven't found much to watch on HBO since The Sopranos ended last June. I'm not very interested in the newer series. Two of my favorites, Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm, have gotten a little bit tired and repetitive. The characters that I used to find funny I now just find kind of annoying.
But here's something that just might keep me from pulling the plug: HBO is picking up a series based on Alexander McCall Smith's mystery novels set in the African nation of Botswana, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.
I've always been a big fan of mystery novels, ever since I started reading The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown as a kid. I especially loved The Bobbsey Twins, because their adventures always took place in exotic (to me) locations.
I like all kinds of mysteries - political thrillers, legal thrillers, espionage tales, hardboiled detective stories, or stories as quaint and sweet as teatime in an English village. While I've kind of gotten away from reading them - I find myself picking up more contemporary fiction these days - I still enjoy a good one. One of the best I've read in the past year is The Havana Room, by Colin Harrison.
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency falls into the quaint category. The mysteries aren't usually very mysterious. But the characters are great, and Alexander McCall Smith, a former professor at the University of Edinburgh who grew up in Africa, writes about the continent and its people with obvious affection.
According to Variety, the series will star Grammy-winning singer and actress Jill Scott, as Precious Ramotswe, proprietor of Botswana's only female-run detective agency, and Tony-winner Anika Noni Rose, currently on Broadway in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, as her quirky secretary.
Anthony Minghella, director of the Oscar-winning film The English Patient, has completed a two-hour pilot, filmed in Africa, and HBO has ordered up 13 episodes. Variety says HBO plans to launch the show by the first quarter of 2009.
Years after I put down my last Bobbsey Twins book, I still like to pick up stories that take me to places I've never been. That's one of the reasons I'm looking forward to this series. In the Variety article, Minghella says filming the pilot in Botswana was amazing. "It was a privilege to be working on a film which celebrates what we can learn from Africa, and not what we think we can teach it."
Update March 18: I was shocked and saddened to learn that Anthony Minghella passed away today in London of a hemorrhage following surgery. He was 54. My thoughts go out to his friends and family.